Saturday, 21 November 2015

Pros and Cons of a Buy Nothing Christmas, or How Ugly Sweaters Became Cool

Image result for weasley sweaterWandering through the stores this fall, it seems every clothing retailer has at least 2 or 3 Ugly Christmas Sweater offerings. Was this a spin-of of Mrs. Weasley's famous letter sweaters? Perhaps. But there is no denying that it is a definite holiday fashion trend.
Well, that was meant to nicely segue into a discussion of Black Friday and the Buy Nothing Day movement, but it seems my writing skills are a little rusty, so please excuse my linguistic potholes as I plod on.

What is the symbolism with ugly sweaters anyhow?
Image result for homemade hand-knit christmas sweaterFor me, it is a symbol of love and caring, with perhaps a small amount of resentment thrown in. Picture for a moment a patient knitter going to the bother of choosing a pattern and yarn, then spending dozens of hours crafting a sweater with the knowledge that all of that hard work will likely be less appreciated than some latest impersonal and imported electronic offering from a buying spree at Walmart or Best Buy. There is bound to be more than a little frustration involved!

I had this personal experience myself. Twice now I have knitted sweaters for people. The first I knit for my now ex husband. I will let you speculate on whether there is a connection there, but I will say that he did wear that sweater, in public (even after the split), for more than a decade. It was not Christmas themed, and the pattern was subtle and the colours well suited to him.

With that "success" under my belt, I knit another for a different relative. I was a little more extravagant, and choose some (very expensive) designer alpaca and silk yarns. They were in pastel shades and were carefully worked so that the different yarns were spun together. The effect was subtle and classy, working well with her hair and skin tones, as well as with other items in her wardrobe. The receiver lost weight over my knitting time, so by the time I gave it to her, it no longer fit. I took it back and reworked it then returned it.

After several months, I asked her if it was working for her, She said she'd donated it to Goodwill. I spent over 100 hours on that, from sourcing the yarn, to knitting and reworking it! I have only knit sweaters for babies since then, since babies haven't found the Goodwill stores yet. That family member has been on the "gift card" list ever since.

Image result for ugly christmas sweaterFrustration, commercialization and lack of appreciation combined are my personal theory as to why holiday sweaters began to grow ugly. Another, much more positive theory is that receiving a hand-knit Christmas sweater means that someone cared enough about you to dedicate hours of work to your gift. That you would wear even the more outlandish ones is a visible symbol of love and appreciation.

Image result for ugly christmas sweaterBut then, the time and effort involved are overwhelming, especially when there are machines and cheap labour overseas, hence the new twist on an old tradition. Lost are the personal, local and environmentally friendly aspects that made the sweater such a sentimental loved (and dreaded) favourite.

Does anyone else see the irony in mass-market ugly sweaters?

Moving along here...

This coming Friday is "Black Friday" in the US. Canada has jumped on that commercialized frenzy over the past few years as well. Lineups, pushing and shoving, fist-fights, all for the sake of getting something at a reduced price that is likely to end up in the landfill in less than 6 months (where I'm sure they will join a few of the items in these images). Not only does such disposable thinking create landfill waste, it also is wasteful in the production stage, and especially in the transportation stage. International shipping is a huge contributor of GHG emissions. This article in the Guardian details the extent of the shipping contributions worldwide If that isn't the scariest Christmas ghost story since Dickens, I don't know what is.

Image result for christmas gifts 2015 worst toys
An alternative is to seriously consider the receiver of the gift and give accordingly. What are their needs and interests? Have you asked them directly what they would like? Is there a service that you could provide or pay for that would improve their life in some way? When the gift truly matches the receiver, there is less likelihood of waste.

Image result for kitchen gadgets

worst christmas gifts everIf you don't know the person, you can opt for a gift card. Gift cards for people you do know though can also send a message that you were too lazy to be more specific. An exception to this might be a gift card and a message in which you plan to get together to shop for a piece of clothing and go out for lunch, or movie passes with a personal note included. Adding personal touches is key.

Image result for keurig coffee makerFor someone who has everything, a donation to a cause that is meaningful to them is a good option. Services can also be useful here, depending on the situation. Stressed or over-worked people may benefit from a massage or spa treatment, although those aren't for everyone. Pet sitting, baby sitting, cooking / catering a meal are also some ideas that can be overlooked in the holiday frenzy.
The holidays are busy, so for some people, a gift that reaches into the future may be welcome, such as tickets to a live theatre or sporting event that matches their interests.

Once the gifts have been determined, I like to consider the environment when wrapping. There are many reusable wrapping options. This link has a few you can make yourself